Exploring contemporary focuses of circumpolar communities and identities
Language, land, sovereignty—how do these concepts and areas of focus play out in the regions of the circumpolar arctic? How do topics of identity and colonialism define themselves in these communities? Such is addressed and explored through the art of 12 Indigenous artists from this region in the exhibition Among All These Tundras.
Curated by Heather Igloliorte, Amy Prouty and Charissa von Harringa, Among All These Tundras showcases works exclusively by artists from the circumpolar arctic, whose respective works address and explore contemporary and historic focuses of this location, including language, colonialism and sovereignty. The variety of pieces span many mediums, including film, sculpture, photography, textile and performance, creating a diverse collection of work.
The title of the exhibition is drawn from “My Home Is In My Heart,” a poem written by Nils-Aslak Valkeapää. Valkeapää is a well-known Finnish Sami poet, known for his writing, music and eight collections of published poems. The poem is written in Sami. In it, Valkeapää addresses and connects to different realms of Indigenous life and knowledge, while highlighting aspects of decolonization. He uses language as a form of resistance, which gives greater significance to the title of the exhibition. Connected to this, in viewing the works of Among All These Tundras, it is necessary to recognize that the presence of colonialism has touched, and is prominent within, every artwork shown. Viewers can further consider these ties and the reclamation and resistance explored within the artworks.
Sami Shelters #1 – 5 is an ongoing project by artist Joar Nango. It consists of several hand-knitted wool sweaters of various shades, designs and patterns, hanging at different lengths near the entrance of the gallery. The designs on the sweaters depict landscapes—architecture and nature—of the region of Sápmi, the artist’s place of origin, in Norway. Nango, who also works in architecture, questions and explores Indigenous identity through his art. This is seen within Sami Shelters, which provide a visual representation of the artist’s home and his identity.
Artist Allison Akootchook Warden’s We Glow The Way We Choose To Glow (2018) is a sculptural piece consisting of 3D-printed figurines of polar bears, displayed on a glow-in-the-dark filament. The figurines are positioned in a pattern and the bright shades of pink and purple from the filament are distinctive and eye-catching. Warden is Iñupiat, from Fairbanks, Alaska, where she witnessed the impact of colonization, which has influenced her artwork. By including her identity and culture within her work, Warden also addresses ideas and issues of climate change and the current political landscape.
Tusarsauvungaa (2018) by Taqralik Partridge, is a series of five hanging elements made up of beading, fishing lures, coins and other material components. Each element is distinct—one consists of an image of a fish with beading at the bottom and coins attached to the central part of the piece. Another, using the material of a thermal emergency blanket, connects Canadian dollars through gold detailing. The artist is also a writer and spoken word performer from the community of Kuujjuaq, the largest Inuit village in Quebec.
The exhibition showcases a diverse range of artwork from a large selection of artists from circumpolar regions. Collectively, the works explore general themes, issues and aspects unique to these areas. Yet with the diverse forms and subject matters of each respective work, further complexities, ideas and personal/specific focuses are considered.
The exhibition provides representation, along with space for discussion and consideration of circumpolar life and identity, specifically that of Indigenous peoples of this region. Perhaps solidifying this even more are the backgrounds of the curators—Igloliorte is from the region of Nunatsiavut and is a professor in Indigenous studies at Concordia, along with her curational work in various galleries across the country, while Prouty and Harringa are both art history PhD students at Concordia with specializations in Inuit art.
Addressing indigeneity and the presence of colonialism (along with the impact of climate change and politics), Among All These Tundras provides representation and resistance. It encourages greater consideration, knowledge and awareness of circumpolar communities and identity, along with the specific complexities and significance within the region.
Among All These Tundras is on display in the Leonard & Bina Ellen Gallery in Concordia’s LB building until Oct. 27. The gallery is open 12 to 6 p.m. from Tuesdays to Fridays, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.